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First-years welcomed in Opening Exercises, joint Pre-rade with Class of 2024

<h5>Class of 2025 students walk at the Pre-Rade.</h5>
<h6><strong>Candace Do / The Daily Princetonian</strong></h6>
Class of 2025 students walk at the Pre-Rade.
Candace Do / The Daily Princetonian

First-year students took part in several orientation traditions on Sunday, Aug. 29, including Opening Exercises, the Pre-rade, a barbecue dinner, and the Step Sing in front of Whig Hall.

These traditions have accompanied Princeton’s orientation calendar for many years, but one thing was different for the Class of 2025 — they marched in the Pre-rade behind members of the Class of 2024.

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While students typically attend the Pre-rade in their first year, the COVID-19 pandemic caused Princeton to revert to online learning in the fall of 2020. Therefore, the Class of 2024 was invited to participate in many first-year traditions this year. 

Opening Exercises is an annual interfaith ceremony that marks the start of the academic year for first-year students. It includes an address from the University president, the awarding of undergraduate prizes, and blessings from a variety of religious and ethical traditions.

Candace Do / The Daily Princetonian

In this year’s address, President Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83 spoke on a personal topic, sharing that he suffers from acoustic neuroma, a type of benign brain tumor that can cause hearing loss, balance issues, and difficulty controlling facial muscles.

Relating the diagnosis to students’ potential path through Princeton, Eisgruber imparted several lessons: He advised first-year students to participate in important and sensitive conversations, to encourage scientific literacy, to find commonality with others, and to act with humility.

At one moment, Eisgruber related the process of learning about his medical condition to ongoing struggles with public acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine and objective scientific reasoning.

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“The ability to benefit from scientific understanding and participate in civic institutions is a gift,” he said. “We should cultivate that gift and share it with others.”

Another lesson had to do with the importance of recognizing shared struggles and hidden challenges in peers of all ages and roles.

“Very few people have acoustic neuromas, but everyone has vulnerabilities, pain, and struggles that they conceal from the world,” he said. “That is true no matter how impressive, authoritative, or composed someone may appear.”

Eisgruber concluded the address by acknowledging his own weaknesses but emphasizing Princetonians’ collective capacity for resilience.

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“Princeton is a community and an institution where flawed and resilient human beings support one another to learn, grow, cope with our limitations, and pursue the transcendent through scholarship, service, and the arts,” he said.

Julian Gottfried / The Daily Princetonian

During Opening Exercises, Dean of the College Jill Dolan presented several undergraduate awards to members of the sophomore, junior, and senior classes.

Yonit Krebs ’24 and Steven Wang ’24 received the Freshman First Honor Prize, awarded to sophomore students with exceptional achievement during their first year. André Koch Liston ’23 and Frederick Qiu ’23 were awarded the George B. Wood Legacy Sophomore Prize, and Silma Berrada ’22 and Michelle Woo ’22 received the George B. Wood Legacy Junior Prize.

The Class of 1939 Princeton Scholar Award was given to Anthony Hein ’22 in recognition of attaining the highest academic standing for all preceding college work at the University by the end of junior year. Last year, this award was received by Taishi Nakase ’21, who went on to be named valedictorian of the Class of 2021.

Hein is chief technology officer of The Daily Princetonian’s business board.

Notably, six of the seven awardees — Krebs, Wang, Liston, Qiu, Berrada, and Hein — are members of First College. Woo is a member of Rockefeller College.

The event also included songs, readings, and prayers from a variety of faiths.

After Opening Exercises, students in the classes of 2024 and 2025 exited the University Chapel and marched through FitzRandolph Gate for the Pre-rade, while upperclass students, family members, and alumni cheered.

Candace Do / The Daily Princetonian

Sana Asifriyaz ’25 told the ‘Prince’ that as a Muslim student, she admired the University’s “efforts to make many affinity groups on campus feel welcome through the diverse representations of major religions and cultures” during Opening Exercises.

“At my largely homogenous high school, I was the only Muslim student there — that, too, a hijabi woman,” she wrote. “So one could only imagine how I must’ve felt when I saw a fellow hijabi read Surah Al-Fatiha in front of every person present in the University Chapel!”

Asifriyaz also shared that while she found the day’s events “really powerful” given the events of the pandemic, she did have some concerns.

“As much I would like to say I enjoyed the day’s events, I must add that I would’ve appreciated if everyone invested more effort in social distancing while in large groups,” she added. “Not many individuals were masked when they were supposed to be, which could potentially put others at risk.”

Shrey Addagatla ’24 spoke positively of the Pre-rade experience.

“It felt nice to be included and have a semblance of a normal year,” he told the ‘Prince,’ “and to finally enter the gates and feel like a normal Princeton student.”

Evelyn Doskoch is a Head News Editor who has reported on University affairs, COVID-19 policy, student life, sexual harassment allegations, town affairs, and eating clubs. She can be reached at edoskoch@princeton.edu or on Twitter at @EvelynDoskoch.

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